ST. PAUL, Minn. (AP) – Former state Rep. Dan Severson on Monday became the first Minnesota Republican to announce a challenge to Democratic Sen. Amy Klobuchar in next year’s election.
The race is off to a much slower start than past Senate contests in a state with a competitive history. Klobuchar, who bucked that trend in her first race, is regarded as the favorite, even by people within the GOP.
Severson, a 56-year-old retired Navy pilot, acknowledged it won’t be easy as he set his campaign in motion on the state Capitol steps, where he was surrounded by supporters.
“It’s going to be a long, hard road. There’s giants in the land, but they will come down,” Severson said. He didn’t mention Klobuchar’s name once during the 12-minute event.
Klobuchar won her seat in a 2006 blowout, and she’s maintained strong public approval ratings throughout her term. With more than $2.5 million in campaign cash as of mid-April, Klobuchar is trying to become Minnesota’s first incumbent senator to win re-election since 1996.
In a brief statement, Klobuchar campaign spokesman Justin Buoen didn’t comment directly on Severson’s candidacy. Buoen said Klobuchar is focused on her work and not the campaign.
“The election is a year and a half away,” he said.
Severson was the GOP’s nominee for secretary of state last year, attracting 928,000 votes, the second most for a Republican on the 2010 ticket but well short of incumbent Democrat Mark Ritchie. Severson represented a St. Cloud-area district for four terms while in the Legislature.
A handful of his former colleagues were on hand for the announcement, but his backdrop also included representatives from Somali and Hmong immigrant communities that the GOP has tried to court.
In January, Severson helped form the Minnesota Organization of Republican Veterans, which has a mission of recruiting and electing military veterans. Issues that Severson has supported include legislation that would require voters to show a government-issued photo identification card before getting a ballot.
In his remarks and questions after announcing the run, Severson blamed the White House and the Senate, both led by Democrats, for not doing enough to address rising gas prices, high unemployment rates and growing federal debt.
“This next election is pivotal to America’s future,” he said. “It’s about stopping the soft shackles of socialism and returning the government to the people.”
He said his plan would be to cut federal expenditures, cap the debt limit and balance the budget. He didn’t say how he would do that, but promised to outline his plan during the campaign.
Other Republicans have said they are considering Senate campaigns but aren’t ready to move ahead.
R. Chris Barden, the Republican nominee for attorney general, said last month he was weighing a run. Bill Guidera, a News Corp. executive and officer for the state Republican Party, needs to make sure he’d be able to raise enough money before entering the race, said his adviser, Noah Rouen.
Last week, freshman state Sen. Dave Thompson of Lakeville said he would wait until after the legislative session ends to decide.
“Frankly, this was brought to me. I never talked about this and haven’t really until this point, until I started to get questions,” Thompson said. “I’ll just have to see what happens after we get our business taken care of here.”
Barring a special session, lawmakers are due to adjourn next Monday.
Severson said he will abide by the party endorsement process, swearing off a primary if state convention delegates back another candidate next spring.
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